CLEMSON, S.C. - The Bowden Bowl has become a drag for the football family.
Clemson coach Tommy Bowden says his mother had talked for the first time of staying behind when her husband, Bobby, brings Florida State to Death Valley on Saturday.
"You see blood hurting, husband or son," Tommy said. "Somebody's hurting Sunday, which reflects back on her. We get paid well to hurt. She doesn't."
Bobby said Wednesday he expected his wife, Ann, to make the trip, although perhaps a bit reluctantly.
It wasn't long ago in 1999 that Ann Bowden gladly posed for the ESPN cameras in the Death Valley stands, showing off her split loyalties on her sweater - half in Seminoles garnet, the rest in Tigers orange - to celebrate big-time college football's first father-son contest.
Grandparents Bobby and Ann traveled across the South Carolina that fall to happily see Tommy's son, Ryan, play high school football.
The meeting, every Bowden said then, was a rare in-season chance to bring the family together.
But now, both Atlantic Coast Conference coaches see it as an occupational hazard impacting the family livelihood and bringing untold angst to the Bowden on the losing end.
"It's a very critical profession," said Bobby, who turned 76 Tuesday. "I'd like to see him succeed, but I'm not going to let up one bit. He'll do the same, and I know that one of us will be very sad" after the game.
Tommy agreed with his dad.
"It's a completely different environment. It's not nearly as much fun as it used to be," Clemson's coach said.
When Tommy hugged his father at Death Valley's midfield six years ago after Florida State's 17-14 victory, it was probably the only time the series' loser escaped the anger of fickle fans and sports-talk callers.
Tommy has faced harsher scrutiny after each of his four other Florida State losses.
Bobby felt that sting two years ago when his son's Tigers surprised then-No. 3 Florida State 26-10 at Memorial Stadium. Besides dealing with supporters angry about the Seminoles' lost national title chance, Bobby heard the absurd whispers he might have laid down to save his son's tenuous job.
"I bet a lot of the people down here thought the same thing," Bobby Bowden said. "But I can't do that. I'm sure he couldn't do that, either."
Saturday will certainly bring more criticism to the Bowden family, regardless of the outcome.
A Tigers defeat would leave them 5-5 and turn Tommy's once-promising season into a one-game gamble at a bottom-tier bowl. A Florida State loss could increase the heat on Bobby's offensive coordinator son, Jeff, often a scapegoat for the Seminoles' problems.
"The job description of this profession is criticism," Tommy said. "Jeff was well aware when he went into it. That's why my son's in law, and not going into the profession."
Clemson receiver Chansi Stuckey said it's easy for Tigers to see the difference in their head coach during Florida State week. "He takes it a little more personal," Stuckey said.
Besides Tommy, Bobby Bowden's daughter, Robyn, is caught up in the family divide since her husband, Jack Hines, coaches Clemson tight ends.
Tommy and Bobby usually give each other about 24 hours or so to get past the outcome. The results don't sneak into family gatherings very much, although the losses never go away, "whether it's six years ago or Saturday," Tommy said.
Bobby was worried about his son's job security in 2003. After that game, Bobby told Tommy's critics that if his son didn't stick at Clemson, he'd win somewhere else. "He's got the stuff," Bobby Bowden said.
Tommy showed it the rest of that season, with a four-game win streak that included victories over rival South Carolina (63-17) and Tennessee (27-14) in the Peach Bowl.
The closing flourish landed Tommy a seven-year contract extension where he'd receive $3 million from the school if there are between four and five years remaining, according to the agreement that expires Nov. 30, 2010.
Bobby said he never talked up coaching to his four sons or two daughters. "I was hoping they wouldn't because you wind up having to play them or recruit against them," Bobby said.
Three of them didn't listen - Terry Bowden coached nearly six seasons at Auburn and is now a college football analyst on television. So Bobby's got no choice but to live with the consequences and find a way to beat Tommy each year.
"I guess that's why we hate to play each other," Bobby Bowden said.